By now, most everyone has heard something of the off-the-mike November conversation between Texas Education Agency Deputy Comissioner Lizzette Reynolds and Associate Deputy Commissioner Gina Day that was made public last week. After a very brief meeting, someone forgot to turn off her microphone and the two were recorded as Reynolds told Day to stop making excuses for the State Center for Early Childhood Development run by Susan Landry out of the Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
Highlights (that some of the more sensitive media did not relate) included:
LIZZETTE REYNOLDS: We do . . still we have got to move away from this protection around the State Center. We have to. We have to. It's not our deal. It's not our deal. And Gina, you know . . . it's just like . . . we get into . . . we do the job they need to be doing on their own. And, you know, this bullshit that they didn't get us the data on Saturday. It's unbelievable. I am sick of it. And the next time they do something like that, I will call them and just tell them then we're just going to cut out this contract because this - - we do not allow other people to do this to us and why we allow you guys, I don't know. But this is going to end. And they need to know that. I am done with it.
GINA DAY: I understand.
LIZZETTE REYNOLDS: I am done, because it's hurting us.
(UNIDENTIFIED BACKGROUND VOICES)
LIZZETTE REYNOLDS: Sick of it. I'm supposed to talk to what's his face at some point. Marina's supposed to set something up with John. That's what I'm going to tell John. Any more deadlines and y'all are coming, y'all are going to fly your asses to Austin on your own penny and you all are going to explain why y'all are missing deadlines. It's hurting our state initiative's office.
GINA DAY: I need a list of the deadlines they've missed. They had a hurricane in two of the districts.
LIZZETTE REYNOLDS: I don't really care. I don't care, I don't care anymore. Then they need to figure it out. They need to go out there and dig through the goddamn rubble and figure it out. I mean, I . . .I . ..I mean ... (UNIDENTIFIED VOICES IN BACKGROUND TALKING ABOUT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE)
LIZZETTE REYNOLDS: According to the. . . okay, okay, so our grants office is lying each and every time - they've over exaggerating - when they say the Center missed a deadline? That, I mean . . .see Gina, that's it - you take their side over ours and that's just not right. It's just not. It just can't happen anymore. We are the TEA. We have to protect each other. And if there is an issue going on with the Grants office then we have to fix it. If they think that the State Center is not doing their job then we need to come down on the State Center. I mean, it's just not fair.
Landry and her center have come under increasing criticism by various media outlets who want to know more about why it got $500,000 in royalties from businesses that sell their products to be used in TEEM (Texas Early Education Model) classes. TEEM supposedly establishes the perfect model for how pre-K should be operated in this state, but -- as we've written before -- some far more established and successful programs like the one in Spring Branch ISD aren't big fans.
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Word on the street is that with the departure of President and Laura Bush - both big Susan Landry supporters -Landry's funding sources are drying up (Texas Workforce Commission funds have been cut) and that she might have to re-invent herself. Landry has never done especially well in peer reviews of her program, sources say, so her time of reckoning may be nigh.
Even the Texas champion of pre-K who supported the outsourcing of this TEA function to the medical school has become aware of the problem with accountability with Landry's center and the problems with the relationship between the medical school and the TEA.
Judy Zaffirini (D-Laredo) has prefiled Senate Bill 49 for the upcoming legislative session which calls - for the first time (the part that's truly amazing) - for the state center to comply with government code management requirements, to submit a report to the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committee on its use of state funds, to have center staff on call to answer questions from the Texas House and Senate, and to allow an external evaluation of its operations. - Margaret Downing